Gearbox CEO Learned Game Design From His Magician Days

Gearbox CEO Learned Game Design From His Magician Days

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"If you follow my line of logic," former stage magician Randy Pitchford promises, "there will be a pay-off."

"I'm an entertainer at heart," Gearbox Software President Randy Pitchford claims. The former stage magician and Magic Castle alumnus went on to admit that game developers and magicians have some things in common. Chief among them is the need to get into the audience's head and find out what makes them tick, because without that insight neither the magician nor the developer will be able to get the audience to buy into the smoke-and-mirrors that leads up to the explosive conclusion. "Just come with me," as Pitchford describes the effect, "trust me, come along with where I'm going to lead you, and if you follow my line of logic, if you come along with me, there will be a pay-off, there will be a reward."

But there is one significant difference. A stage magician performs in front of a live audience, and - as anyone who performs live can testify - the buzz of immediate feedback keeps the show going. There's nothing worse than an audience that sits on its hands, silent and unresponsive; that kills a performance stone dead. But in game development years can go by before you see a result, and in that time the developer will be making any number of design decisions which - because they never get audience feedback - go essentially untested until release day. The audience is effectively sitting on its hands, and the developer has to put on a show without knowing if they approve, disapprove or don't care.

"By the time you get the feedback finally," Pitchford says, "you've forgotten all your decisions. That [lack of feedback] loop is really dangerous." It means the developer can't adjust significantly to take the audience into account until near the end of the process, so that even if the developer could remember what happened when, and why, there's not much to be done about it.

"Doing things isn't just about trying really hard," Pitchford admits. "It's about throwing things out there and being judged." The guy who acquired and shipped Duke Nukem Forever knows that better than anyone; but he points out that, even with a high profile failure, there's something to be salvaged from the wreckage. "Everyone turned their heads. You had to watch ... I would have given some part of my body to get that kind of attention on Borderlands 1."

Source: Eurogamer

Image: All About Magicians

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Yeah, I know how it feels not getting a response to your work.

so after sawing a woman in half he "invented" sawing the game in bits a.k.a. dlc?

anyways, we should start to clone randy with every game for immediate response since game testers doesnt seem to do the work
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rhizhim:
so after sawing a woman in half he "invented" sawing the game in bits a.k.a. dlc?

I think that's an unfair claim to level at the developer responsible for Borderlands and the associated DLC. Borderlands is, in my opinion, one of the best examples of what DLC should be: It's developed after the main game releases, expands greatly upon the original game, and is a great addition even if you've already beaten the game once.

Borderlands is pretty much the only game where I always make sure to include "get the DLC" any time I recommend it.

I don't really see where this guy was going with this. He didn't really compare game design to magic he just said a bunch of stuff without saying anything at all.

I don't remember gearbox made any truly great games, borderland 1 and 2 is good but not "great". It's better than games by EA for sure but in the end it still felt like a fast food game. Perhaps I'm getting old which made instant gratification less appealing to me and games like game dev story (iphone) and heavy rain becomes more appealing.

But I still think any game, what ever the genre, can take itself seriously and provide more depth.

Devoneaux:
I don't really see where this guy was going with this. He didn't really compare game design to magic he just said a bunch of stuff without saying anything at all.

This must be the first Randy Pitchford article you've read.

My favourite was his, "We're surprised that more companies haven't tried to clone Borderlands, not that we want them to" post a little while back. Or everything he said about DNF.

It also appears that Pitchford is unaware of the practise of public beta testing, where he could get feedback before launch day.

I am just disappointed that this article does not contain the word "trick".

rhizhim:
so after sawing a woman in half he "invented" sawing the game in bits a.k.a. dlc?

anyways, we should start to clone randy with every game for immediate response since game testers doesnt seem to do the work
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B^Uckley strikes again!

For supposedly being all about getting into the head of the audience. He can't succeed with over half of it (the women), and even plenty of the men are turned off by how abysmal and misogynist the twerp is. (Oh and DNF)

*looks over other posts*
Escapist community, I am disappoint. (some of you have the attention span of a gerbil on meth)

Anywho, being a designer is sometimes like begin a magician. There is tons of slight of hand to make a convincing illusion. I would say that's more on the technical aspect though. As for the feedback loop, they're called beta and alpha testers. Big studios have to worry about leaks and such but in an ideal world that is your feedback loop.

 

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